Andrews University’s sixth annual Change Day was held on September 15, 2022. More than 1,100 students and staff volunteered within the community, working at 32 sites around the local area. The program was coordinated by the Center for Faith Engagement (CFE) in conjunction with the Andrews University Student Association (AUSA). Many volunteers, project leaders, student clubs, and departments formed one of the largest planning teams yet, laying the groundwork for a successful day of service.
“Our motto is to make World Changers, and in [September 15] we were able to put our faith into action and live that mission,” said Teela Ruehle, director of student missions and service projects. “When the vision for Change Day was first shared, the goal was for Andrews to not only reside in the community, but to have a positive presence.”
Added Ruehle, “We had several smaller, understaffed organizations tell us this year that they were waiting for us to call and were excited to have us back. This is exactly what we hope for with Change Day: for our Andrews community to provide positive influence and impact so that we can help make a difference in the lives of others and show God’s love.”
That morning, the volunteers gathered for breakfast, lunch, and preparation for the day. They then set off in groups to their various locations, participating in car washes, nature restoration, yard work, creating care packages, community outreach and more.
“Over the last six years, we’ve been able to build relationships and really see the difference we can make in the community,” Ruehle said. “One day it seems like it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it’s the first step to becoming World Changers. I love how our community has embraced us and learned that they can reach out and ask for help from our skilled faculty, staff, and students.”
Kayla-Hope Bruno, a psychology senior, served with a group at Warren Dunes. Her team was in charge of selecting and cutting down plants and invasive species from the forest. “That was interesting, I really didn’t expect it because I thought we were going to pick up trash on the beach, but it was great!” she said. When they finished their work, a tour guide gave them an overview of the area, pointing out different plants and explaining aspects of the environment. “Overall, I enjoyed it! It was a good experience,” she said.
Even when things didn’t go as planned, volunteers found intentional ways to make a positive impact. Austin Greer, a third-year Master of Divinity student, participated as a group leader in one event. Earlier in the week, he learned that the original plan to visit a nursing home had been cancelled. On the morning of Changeover Day, his second project was canceled at the last minute. “Our team adapted very well,” Greer said. “We made Niles smile by sweetening his day with baked goods, kids’ gummies, water bottles and sweet phrases on sticky notes.” Despite the change in plans, his group made the best of the situation and brought joy to the community.
When students and staff returned to campus after a successful day of service, they were greeted with a Changeover Day after party. Food, games and colorful activities took place in the sunny afternoon, celebrating the day of service and the work of the volunteers.
Hailey Prestes, a junior architecture student, helped plan the event as AUSA’s social vice president. “It was a lot of hard work from the team: AUSA and CFE came together to make sure it happened,” said Prestes. “My favorite part was seeing everyone participate, get excited, [and] Get that school spirit! We have that community going. Overall, I just hope everyone enjoyed the experience and had a good time.”
Changeover Day served as a kickoff for other upcoming service events, and Ruehle encouraged the Andrews community to stay involved and active. She said, “We host Saturdays of Service on the first Saturday of every month, blood drives, homeless ministries, nursing home visitation, food distributions, mission trips and much more. We encourage students to get involved and help plan their own events.
“I am very proud of our students,” Ruehle said. “They are dedicated to changing the world, and it really showed.” She added that it was amazing to see so many young people willing to work hard to help their neighbors. “Changing the world starts with engaging the community you’re in, building relationships in those communities, and doing small acts of kindness,” he said.
the original version of this story was published by Andrews University.